Fulham Pottery: The Wheel of Fortune

Fulham Pottery: The Wheel of Fortune

In the seventeenth century John Dwight made Fulham synonymous with the design and manufacture of a new style of pottery

Fulham Pottery, The Wheel of Fortune, John Dwight, Pottery, Bottle Kiln, Salt-glazed Stoneware, Sir Robert Boyle, The Art of the Old English Potter, Louis Marc Solon, Fulham Locals, Fulham, SW6
One of Fulham’s best known landmarks stands at the junction of New Kings Road and Burlington Road. The Historic England website describes it as: Bottle Kiln, freestanding. Probably 19th Century. Brick. Remaining fragment of Fulham Pottery. Grade II-Listed. Behind those bare facts lies the fascinating story of John Dwight and SW6’s most enduring and unusual industry.

In 1672, having been granted the first patent to manufacture salt-glazed stoneware, John Dwight founded the Fulham Pottery. He had mastered the process of firing clay pots and bottles with a glaze that becomes nearly white, rather like stone. The vessels produced had a smooth finish – unlike the rough surface resulting from normal firing – that enabled them to hold food and drink and be decorated as ornamental plates and vases.

Dwight was born between 1633 and 1636 and, in the 1650s, he worked in the laboratory of the eminent scientist, Sir Robert Boyle. After taking a Civil Law degree at Oxford, Dwight was appointed Registrar to the Bishop of Chester and, at this time, he began experimenting with clays and minerals as base materials to make porcelain and stoneware. Clearly he was successful because, in 1671, he obtained a patent for his discoveries and moved to Fulham’s riverside to establish his pottery.

Fulham stoneware was hard and compact, usually grey in colour and decorated with brilliant blue enamel in bands, leaves and flowers. The artistic merit of Dwight’s pottery and the sheer variety of his work set him apart from his British and Continental peers.

Inevitably, envious eyes were cast in his direction. Between 1693-1696 Dwight was embroiled in 19 lawsuits over infringements of the patent. Despite his efforts to guard the secret of salt-glazed stoneware, knowledge of the process spread, eventually becoming the basis of the wealth of the famous Staffordshire potteries.

Dwight died in 1703 and the pottery remained in his family until 1862, whereupon it passed through several owners. During WW1, with nine large bottle kilns in regular use, the business made stone hot water bottles and rum jars for the troops. In 1975 the Pottery was demolished and, as part of the re-development, one of the distinctive kilns was preserved.

In The Art of the Old English Potter (1885), Louis Marc Solon pays this tribute to Dwight. ‘To him must be attributed the foundation of an important industry; he not only found the means of supplying the daily wants of the people with an article superior to anything that had ever been known before, but besides, by the exercise of his refined taste and uncommon skill, he raised his craft to a high level.’
Fulham Pottery, The Wheel of Fortune, John Dwight, Pottery, Bottle Kiln, Salt-glazed Stoneware, Sir Robert Boyle, The Art of the Old English Potter, Louis Marc Solon, Fulham Locals, Fulham, SW6

Illustrations courtesy of Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archives

About Editor

Online editor at Keep Things Local

KEEP THINGS LOCAL IS A MEDIA BUSINESS WITH A UNIQUE LOCAL FOCUS

The company publishes four flagship magazines (Chelsea Locals, Chiswick Locals, Richmond Locals and Hammersmith Locals) with more launches planned in London and across the UK. The prime focus of each of these quarterly magazines is to showcase and support the independent traders and small businesses who do so much to give these areas their individual retail character and community spirit. This is achieved through dedicated advertorials which are written, designed and photographed by an experienced team lead by Neil McKelvie.

In every issue, these advertorials are complemented by feature articles which turn the spotlight on different aspects of neighbourhood life and interviews with notable local figures.In addition to appearing in the magazines, every advertorial is also published in the Keep Things Local newsletters, on the website and on social media. Get in touch to be featured in our Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring issues.

Meet the Locals

Newsletter

Receive offers and news